Your daughter’s school just emailed you a reminder that tomorrow night is the annual parent-teacher conference. Your toddler is tugging at your pant leg – she wants to watch “Finding Nemo” for the umpteenth time. Dinnertime is in ten minutes, and of course you forgot to run the dishwasher. Is it time to scream yet? Maybe. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by life’s constant balancing act, so sometimes taking a “parent time-out” is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
When you get stressed, it shows. You’re a lot more likely to have trouble sleeping, eat poorly, and lose your temper. There’s lots of pressure to be SuperParent, and guilt when you feel you don’t live up to what you think that should be. But it’s unhealthy to pursue such an impossible goal, since it can cause you to lose sight of yourself. Remember: taking a break every now and then to rest and relax is NOT selfish; it’s smart. And necessary.
You don’t need to visit a five-star hotel to get some rest and relaxation. Look for those little breaks in the day: try cozying up with a book while your little one is down for a nap, or pick up that long-neglected scrapbooking project while they’re finishing their homework. Try to establish a routine with your children so they know when you’re going to be “on break.” Anxious kids will want to know exactly when you’ll be back, so give them an accurate estimate (not “whenever”). Once they realize that you’re happier and more engaged with them after a short break, they’ll be less likely to interrupt your quiet time.
A weekly night to catch up with friends and fellow parents can help give you perspective and strengthen relationships outside the home. Other parents go through the same problems, so there should be no shortage of commiseration. Try trading baby-sitting duties with another mom or dad one evening a week, and settle in for a movie night, complete with candy and popcorn. Or have a kid-friendly get-together at an art studio, where you can catch up with a friend and the kids can go crazy with the finger-paint.
For many parents, it’s a completely natural impulse to want to help everyone before you. But taking time explore your own interests is a great way to show your children that doing things on their own can be a lot of fun. They’ll be eager to develop their own hobbies and passions, which in turn boost their self-esteem, confidence, and budding independence. By putting yourself first now and then, you’ll be showing your loved ones how much you care.